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Claudia Voelcker-Rehage and Ben Godde

We examined the effect of high frequency tactile stimulation (tHFS) on tactile and motor performance as well as tactile-motor interactions. Seventeen right-handed participants (66–78 years) underwent a pretest (tactile frequency and spatial discrimination task, manual dexterity test, and precision grip task) with their left hand, received 30 min of tHFS on the tips of their left index finger and thumb, and performed a posttest (control group: no stimulation). Results indicated an improvement in frequency and spatial discrimination in the experimental but not the control group. In the precision grip task, however, training effects as found for the control group seem to be blocked in the experimental group. For the manual dexterity task no effect was found. Our data indicate that tHFS positively influences tactile performance. Assuming tHFS-induced plastic reorganization in somatosensory cortex our results give further evidence to the notion of an interrelation between sensory and motor performance.

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Lena Hübner, Solveig Vieluf, Ben Godde and Claudia Voelcker-Rehage

It remains controversial whether aging influences motor learning and whether physiological factors, such as local strength or fitness, are associated with fine motor performance and learning in older adults (OA). OA (n = 51) and young adults (YA, n = 31) performed a short-term motor learning session using a precision grip force modulation task. The rate of improvement of OA compared with YA was steeper with respect to performance variability and temporal precision. Both age groups showed positive transfer during an unpracticed variant of the force modulation task. Local muscle strength (pinch and grip strength) and high cardiovascular fitness positively predicted fine motor performance, whereas initial performance, muscle strength, and motor fitness (heterogeneous motor test battery) negatively predicted rate of improvement. Analyses indicated potentials, but also limits of plasticity for OA.